What is a College Application “Spike”?


Ananth Veluvali @ Stanford University

What is a College Application “Spike”?


If you're looking to get into a top-tier college, then having a "spike" can help improve your chances of acceptance. Lower-tier schools accept many students who are good at a variety of things, but the more prestigious colleges want pupils who have shown success and talent in one particular area. These kids reflect well on the university because they demonstrate that they are likely to excel in their field and be successful later down the road.

Colleges don't always want a group of "jack-of-all trades" type students. They often look for specific roles to be filled in their student bodies, like an oboe player for the orchestra or the next leader of the Black Student Association. A spike will demonstrate which role you can fill.

Although well-rounded students have a more difficult time standing out, that doesn't mean you should change yourself to match what you think colleges want; rather, develop smaller spikes of interests. Trying to insincerely create one specific talent or interest will ruin your application and make the process miserable for you.

In reality, students who try excessively hard to make a spike sometimes become less unique. How so? If you attempt to create a spike of interest, you may do many conventional things that won't assist you in differentiating yourself. That's why it's crucial to tackle the college application process with more subtlety--something we'll be discussing tips on how to do momentarily.

How Do Colleges Evaluate Extracurriculars?

Harvard University

It's crucial to comprehend how college admissions committees assess extracurriculars before we provide tips. Even though these activities may appear completely subjective, colleges actually use a "ranking system" to determine which ECs are most noteworthy. This is commonly referred to as the 4 tiers of extracurriculars.

Tier 1 achievements are the most difficult to obtain, such as becoming a nationally-ranked debater or qualifying for a prestigious International Math Competition.

Tier 2 still represents excellent accomplishments, yet these are more common than those in Tier 1. Some examples of a Tier 2 achievement would be playing in the all-state band or serving as your high school's student body president.

Those who have held leadership positions in the past, like being captain of a sports team or president of a club, would typically fall into Tier 3.

Tier 4 is for participation roles, like volunteering or being a member of a club.

When attempting to improve your college application, be sure to include at least one Tier 2 activity. This will demonstrate strength and determination in your skillset.

Strategies for Developing an Admissions Spike


1. Think about your natural skills and interests

Adcoms are not looking for one specific type of extracurricular activity when they consider candidates. They want a student body that represents diverse interests and talents, which can take many different forms.****

Think about your strengths. Are you passionate about politics? Does programming come naturally to you? It will be easiest to develop an area of expertise in something you care about.

2. Consider your future major and career-related ambitions.

Although it's not required, having your future goals in mind will help you form a "spike" that is relevant to your life after high school. This doesn't mean you need to know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life when you're still a teenager. It just means that beginning to think about the types of professions that attract you can assist in directing where you go from here.

For example, someone wanting to become a writer might develop their spike by writing and publishing short stories. Or, somebody planning on becoming a doctor could get involved with health advocacy work among underserved populations.

3. Let go of any low-reward, high-effort activities.

Many high schoolers are involved in sports and music, but not all of them invest themselves fully. These activities often demand a lot of time with little payoff; they're usually only " Tier 3 or 4" pursuits.

To have a chance at getting into a top 20 college, your list of extracurriculars should include one or two acknowledged "Tier 2" activities, as well as a highly prestigious "Tier 1" activity if possible. If you spend too much time on lesser known activities, you won't be able to build up more impressive credentials.

If you want to develop your "spike", focus on the unique activities that will help make your college application stand out. It's great if you already have involvement in music or sports, but be honest with yourself--will these things REALLY help your application? You should only continue with them if you're passionate about them; otherwise, it may not be worth your time.

4. Think about self-driven extracurriculars.

Many students think that they have to take part in a pre-existing club in order for the activity to hold value on their applications, but that's not necessarily true. In fact, admissions committees will often prefer self-initiated activities because they demonstrate student initiative and are more unique, meaning you're more likely to stick out amongst other applicants. For example, conducting an independent research project, building an app or starting a blog are all great ways to make your application stand out.

5. Consider linking together different interests.

As we stated before, a trap of the college application process is that it might make you look uniform. For example, if your desired spike is writing and you only do commonplace activities like editing for the school newspaper or submitting short stories to contests, you will come across as "just another writer," even if your credentials are great. Instead, try going for a "contrast profile" which blends two interests that you have devoted time too. Also referred to as juxtapositional depth, this type of profile demonstrates interdisciplinary skills and makes you much more unique.

For example, if you're a writer and science enthusiast, you could pursue science writing. This involves experimentation or discussing real-life scenarios in a blog format. Not only will this make your application stand out more, but it also allows you to follow multiple interests simultaneously.



Previous article

Site developed by Soham Govande.



Based at Stanford.
Copyright © Admit Yogi LLC 2023.